Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Killer's Rampage


On May 3, over a month after she had disappeared, Sheryl Bonaventura was found under a tree in Utah.   She had been killed with a gun and also stabbed.  Her time of death was estimated at around March 31, two days after she was spotted with Wilder in a restaurant.  Eight days later, in the Angeles National Forest, Michelle Korfman was discovered.  She was badly decomposed and it took almost a month to notify her family of the identification.  Neither of the two girls who had disappeared in Florida, triggering Wilder's spree, were ever found. 

Some women who were murdered in places where he was known to have been on those dates were tentatively linked to him as well, particularly in Las Vegas.   A couple of girls identified him from mug shots as the man who had grabbed them in Boynton Beach, Florida in 1983 and forced them to perform oral sex on him.  They were ten and twelve.

Even in Australia, he was linked to numerous incidents of sexual molestation and two deaths.   In 1965, two decades before his final run, two young women had accompanied a man matching Wilder's description to a beach near Sydney, and they were both found raped, strangled, and placed in a shallow grave.

Two more girls had been grabbed at malls in Florida.   One was stabbed to death and the other was never found.  Several sets of skeletal remains were found near property that Wilder owned, and one woman was estimated to have been dead for several years.

In other places where Wilder was seen, girls disappeared.   Some were found dead, others disappeared altogether.

Officer Jellison recovered from his wounds and was happy to know the identity of the man he had stopped from escaping into Canada.   Thanks to him, it was the end of the line for Christopher Bernard Wilder, who left an estate estimated as being worth between half a million and almost two million.

While he's credited with eight victims, he's tentatively linked to so many others that it's impossible to know the final count of his victims. 

Since he died as an apparent suicide, Earl James suggests that when the police began to close in on him, he had already decided to kill himself.   However, he wanted a final spree before doing so.  Yet given the fact that he went to California and then New Hampshire, it seems more likely that he was trying to flee to another country.  He got fairly close to the Mexican border, but something must have made him decide to turn around and go back across country.  James believes his intent to cross into Canada is unlikely, since he didn't choose a populated place to do so.  But when he died, he was ten minutes from the border.

Some authors call him a nomadic killer, as if he chose to go from place to place as Ted Bundy did.   However, that seems to be a mistaken notion as well.  He certainly had learned in Australia that one way to elude a trial was to just leave the country.  It was also clear to him in Florida that he would have to leave the state.  He's less the intentional nomad and more likely a killer on the run who grabbed opportunities to rape and kill as he saw them. 

He also demonstrates the fact that some serial killers use different methods to kill.   He used suffocation, stabbing, and shooting.  One victim was both stabbed and shot.  Several were let go.  Many were tortured, but some were merely killed for their cars.  Some were left in rivers, some in rest areas, and one in a gravel pit.  Yet he kept his victim type relatively stable.

Psychologist Al C. Carlisle believes that serial killers have a divided personality.   Wilder certainly exhibited a good side that fooled people, Carlisle points out, and a bad side that harmed them.  He was able to maintain a public persona of an upstanding citizen and run a successful business, even as he entertained and acted out his darker fantasies.  As each one was played out, and as life became more disappointing, Wilder's fantasies became more violent.  Nevertheless, Carlisle admits, "the pathological process that leads to the development of an obsessive appetite (and possibly an addiction) to kill is still one of the most perplexing psychological mysteries yet to be solved."


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